I’ve been reflecting on the limitations of the term restoration; it conveys too much of a past orientation. Scholars always have to clarify that restoration is not a static concept. It calls on return from the exile, restoration of a Davidic kingdom, but ideas of restoration are reshaped in light of recent events and expectations. (More on that at a later date.)
In today’s context, people sometimes reminisce about the “good ole days” or “the way things used to be” as if there was some past “golden age.” If you actually press them on the details and what period they are talking about, no one really wants to go back to the past. For example, some of the much older folks used to talk about the 50s in glowing terms, but if you asked them if they would really want to set the clock back . . . they would at least hesitate. Once you start bringing up things like the segregation of Jim Crow laws, they admit that the world is indeed improving in many ways (but getting worse in other ways, namely moral degradation).
Many Kenyans too will reminisce glowingly about life as it used to be “back at home” (meaning their rural home.), but none of them really wants to give up their modern amenities and go back to village life.
Another example is when Christians say that we need to get back to the early church . . . Like Corinthians??? No, like Acts (usually meaning Acts 2 and 3). Well don’t forget Acts 4 (arrest) and 5 (Annanias and Saphira) and 6 (conflict between Hebrew and Greek speaking Judeans over food) and 7 (stoning of Stephen and ensuing persecution), etc. You really want to focus on church conflict over food and get arrested for preaching and ultimately to be battered by rocks till you are dead?? Don’t forget that as Gentiles, most of us are excluded from this ideal church of early Acts. (We don’t get allowed in until 10-11; clarified in 15.)
What people really seem to be saying is that there are certain elements of the past (at least as it is remembered – collective memory) that they would like restored. Usually this means some dimension of community life or perceived moral strength. What we really want is to combine these with recent improvements for a better future. . . and ultimately the ideal life. That’s a future hope.
What we really want is to live in the world that God originally envisioned. We want to live in a world where God is present and where we live the abundant (prosperous?) life in harmony with God and with one another. Resurrection?
So while restoration draws on certain good elements of the lost past, in most real life cases, it has a significant future-oriented component.
[We should see how many times I can put restoration in a title this year?]